When Tech Events Collaborate: 9 Months of Startup Sesame

When Tech Events Collaborate: 9 Months of Startup Sesame

It’s hard to stand out when you’re an entrepreneur. So you convince yourself to go out and attend events to promote your project as soon as you’ve got an idea. It starts with bootcamps and hackathons organized by local accelerators and business schools.

At some point, you begin to attend international conferences and professional fairs but nobody really trained you for that and you end up losing your time and, worst of all, your money.

You only wanted to build a useful product and solve customer needs, right? Now you’re competing not only with other startups for a piece of the market share but also for attention at events.

I took part in more than 50 professional events during my five years organizing international conferences and I’ve seen firsthand why startups struggle and what they need to do to successfully navigate this crowded and complex game.

Building an alliance of Tech events

Out of this experience, I realized with a group of event professionals that we could help startups grow internationally by attending the right event, at the right time. This is why we launched Startup Sesame, the largest alliance of Tech events in Europe.

Collaboration between events has been in the organizers’ minds for several years already but it wasn’t until last year at Challengers in Barcelona that this initiative came to life.

At first, it looked like a joke. But we got serious about it and managed to launch our first call for entries in September 2015 with 6 partner events. The response was above expectations with 80 applications from 28 countries.

We selected 2 startups: Ingenious and Zettabox. We learnt a lot with them and we even did a panel at Slush about how events can help startups grow.

Obviously, this is a young industry and creating a new category is a daunting challenge. But we rely on a pool of mentors to make it happen. They are the ones who know how entrepreneurs can better their pitch for conferences or master the delicate art of B2B networking. We are so grateful to them and we’re thrilled to announce the latest additions to Startup Sesame’s lineup of experts, Dan Taylor and Sophie Goossens.

Today, we have 10 partner events in 8 cities and we’re at a turning point with our second call for entries coming to an end in March 31st (you can still apply here).

A growing number of events is also willing to join Startup Sesame and we’re doing our best to address their requests. If you’re interested in joining us, please fill in the following form.

We expect to be in all major cities of Europe by end of 2016 thanks to our current partner events and those joining us very soon. By providing time and resources to this initiative, Tech events are accelerating the rise of the digital single market in Europe.

Partnering with Atomico

Today we’re freaking out and overwhelmed by what’s yet to come. It is a very special day for us as we are unveiling an exciting collaboration with Atomico, London based international technology investment company.

With this new partnership, the companies selected by Startup Sesame will get, among other perks, the opportunity to pitch and get valuable feedback on their product or services from Atomico’s investment team before heading out to Startup Sesame partner events throughout Europe.

This collaboration will enable our startups to better their pitches, make precious connexions and prepare for the Tech events they will be attending this coming season. We all know it is better to be challenged before an event and arrive totally prepared than during that event.

Shari Doherty, Partner, Communications at Atomico said the following about joining Startup Sesame:

Startup Sesame helps fast growing European startups navigate the annual event circuit in Europe to accelerate their growth and development of powerful international networks. In our continued efforts to help unlock more of Europe’s potential by building closer links between our tech hubs, Atomico is proud to partner with Startup Sesame.

Advocating for entrepreneurship in Europe

It’s been crazy to witness the amazing response of accelerators and startup ecosystems across the continent. Over 50 organizations have shared our call for entries among their network to help entrepreneurs thrive in Europe.

Members of Allied for Startups

We’re making tons of new friends and we can’t mention all of them here.

But I’d like to highlight the work of Allied for Startups, a global network of startups, entrepreneurs, VCs, and advocacy organizations, working together to create a worldwide consensus on policies that can positively impact startups and grow digital entrepreneurship and digital economy at large.

Accelerators and incubators such as Startup Sauna, Startup Wise Guys, Techstars, Wayra, Startup Reykjavik, H-Farm, hub:raum, Rockstart Accelerator, L’Accélérateur, 500 Nordics, Beta-I, Startup Pirates, OpenAxel, Startup Bootcamp, Tetuan Valley, Sting Accelerator, Welcome Europe, Impact Accelerator, and many more, have presented our project to their portfolio and alumni.

One more thing…

There is no science for Tech events yet but with your help and constant feedback we’re building something close to it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out eventologist.tech and give a try to the first rating app for Tech events.

Eventologist allows you to review anonymously some of the best Tech events in the world. By using a live ranking system, the app lets you know which events are the most popular today.

You can even win a free ticket to your favorite event if you’re lucky 🙂

By the way, you can find Eventologist on Product Hunt, the best place on the Internet for the coolest new products. Huge thanks to Adrien Montcoudiol for hunting us!

We’re running our call for entries until March 31st.
What do you think of our project(s)? Are we missing anything?
Please leave your comments below, on Facebook or Twitter.
We’d love to get your feedback.

If you want to receive information about our activities and deadlines, pleasesubscribe to our newsletter or send us an email at info@startupsesame.com.

Wristbands, velvet ropes, and more: 5 SXSW hacks for startups

Wristbands, velvet ropes, and more: 5 SXSW hacks for startups

Startups, you don’t have time, money, or credibility to waste at events. But industry events can provide a huge boost to business growth and international development when mastered. And if your plans include a trip to SXSW in the coming days, then this is your last chance to learn how to get the most out of these opportunities.

I took part in more than 50 professional events, not to mention meetups and hackathons, during my five years organizing international conferences. I attended everything: mega conferences like SXSW, Web Summit, and Slush; trade shows in Cannes, Barcelona, and other cities in Europe; and premium summits like DLD and LeWeb.

I’ve seen firsthand why startups struggle and what they need to do to successfully navigate this crowded and complex game. Nine times out of 10, founders don’t know what to expect from a specific event, where to find interesting people in the venue, or how the unofficial information is being traded between influencers like investors or journalists.

If you’re working at a startup, you’re supposed to be good at coding and (hopefully) at pitching. But do you know how to introduce yourself in conversational settings without using an elevator pitch? How do you follow up when you’re not selling? What’s the easiest way to get value out of serendipitous networking?

These five tips will let you hack events like SXSW, even if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. They are tricks that I’ve tested and validated with event organizers. Actually, those organizers even taught me some of them.


1. Find the right wristband

Just like at music festivals, tech event organizers distribute wristbands of different colors to control the flow of participants: yellow for speakers, green for the press, purple for sponsors, black for the staff, orange for the opening ceremony, rainbow for the VIP zone of the closing party, and so on. Each event has its own color code, and the code changes every year.


Getting the right wristband is like playing capture the flag. You have to be prepared for the battle and lay down a proper strategy. You must approach with determination and clear objectives in mind. Are you ready to challenge your moral compass?

Here are three possible techniques: First, if you’re an experienced festival-goer and prone to thievery, you can simply steal a wristband during badge collection. Second, sponsors nearly always receive extra wristbands with their booths. You might seduce them into giving you one. Third, if a wristband is needed to get into a VIP event, then there’s always a PR person controlling the access who is completely overwhelmed with wristband distribution. It’s quite easy to convince that poor soul to give you one by claiming that you should be on the guest list. You can also swipe wristbands while this gatekeeper attends to another participant.


– Check if there’s a printed list of wristband colors next to the backstage area; it will be easier to spot the most useful ones afterwards.

– Wait near the VIP exit and kindly ask a speaker to give you their wristband. Cut it by the fastener and gently stick the whole thing back together around your wrist.

– Wristbands come and go; don’t wear them too tight. You may want to share yours with a cofounder or friend. They’ll owe you a huge favor.


2. Squat VIP areas

Tech events usually have restricted access areas: Speaker Lounge, VIP Club, Media Village, Green Room, Backstage, and the like. Those exclusive locations are full of influential personalities who could take your business to the next level. Your goal? Get in and squat those spaces.


Follow an accredited person and claim you have an appointment with them. This is the easiest way to get in. If you don’t find anyone to follow, check to see that there’s actually someone guarding the entrance – sometimes there’s no one around. If there is indeed someone checking wristbands, try to buddy up to them and ask them to let you in as a favor. Or, ask a friend to distract the guard. This works especially well with volunteers. If the guard doesn’t fall for it, then wait for the next shift and try again.


– Once you’re in the VIP area, don’t move until you’re part of the landscape. Talk to lonely people who pretend they’re busy, working on their laptops. Enjoy good Wi-Fi and the free buffet. Act like you belong.

– When the influential person arrives, you’ll be ready to pounce.


3. Get the mic

Even if you’re not a speaker, it’s still possible to get the microphone. If you succeed, make sure your CMO is around to capture this moment on Instagram.


Most conferences let their audience take the mic, usually during Q&A at the end of panels. Organizers might also offer last-minute pitching opportunities on social media. Some free slots are made available when a speaker cancels, especially with matchmaking formats that require mentors and experts. Be ready to take the opportunity.


– To get everything to go right during a Q&A session, sit near the stage or the aisle so you can grab the mic easily. Of course, you must be ready with a question that will let you introduce yourself while still highlighting the speaker on stage.

– Don’t forget to give the audience a simple way to find you afterwards. Giving your name and job title is not enough, mention your contact details clearly and wait near the stage at the end of the panel.


4. Solve the business card dilemma

When you’re specialized in hunting speakers, you’re constantly interrupting important people with the ultimate goal of collecting their contact details. Normally they don’t want to hear about you, much less get bothered with your emails. Their usual answer is: “Sorry, I don’t have business cards anymore.”


If you think that offering your card will be enough and that they will actually write to you afterwards, you still have a lot to learn about B2B networking. Instead, you should start with: “Let’s connect on LinkedIn,” then “What’s your email?” and finish with the phone number. Write this information down immediately.


– The event speakers are probably geeks like you and love to discover new apps. Use your smartphone to automatically send contact details and spark their interest. Sadly, NoBizCard is not available anymore, but you can use Contact Info or Swapcard. It’s a gimmick that should continue to work for a year or two.


5. Rock the follow-up

Creating business opportunities with people you meet during an event is a science, and follow-ups are an area where many beginners stumble.


Time your follow-up well if you want to increase your chances of getting a reply. There are three levels of follow-up that every startup should master:

First, LinkedIn and Twitter, within 24 hours

Second, standard email, between 3 and 5 days after the event. Explain when you met, what you do, enclose your Pitch Deck, and kindly ask for feedback. If you don’t get any answer, follow up a week later.

Third, ultra-personalized email, at the latest within two weeks. Detail what you expect from your contact, why he or she is so important in your industry and what you see as the next steps.


– Organize your follow-ups in email folders and tag them so it is easy to find them and continue a correspondence, even months after.

– You’re more likely to get a reply than if you start a new thread.


Be patient

The more familiar you are with tech events, the easier it becomes to break their rules. Meanwhile, be patient — B2B networking is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t forget that collaboration is everything in the startup world. Get ready to help the people you meet. (Hack yourself first if you’re too selfish.) Listen carefully and give a hand when you can, without expecting anything back in return. A good place to start is by seeking out and helping event organizers. They won’t forget the help, and they just might reward you with a VIP wristband.



This article was originally published on Venture Beat. A french version of it is available on Les Echos.